Vaginismus- a common cause of painful sex

Vaginismus is an involuntary tightening of the pelvic floor muscles and affects a woman’s ability to engage in any form of vaginal penetration.  This is a very common problem. However, many women don’t seek help because they are embarrassed or because they don’t know help is available.

Vaginismus can occur when attempting to insert a tampon, during a gynaecological examination or during sexual intercourse. Some women suffering from vaginismus will be able to achieve partial or full penetration, however this will usually be painful. Others find they cannot achieve penetration at all. Women and their partners often describe attempts to have intercourse as ‘hitting a brick wall’ or feeling ‘too small’ or ‘tight’.

Common symptoms of vaginismus

  • Pain at the entrance of the vagina with penetration
  • Difficulty inserting tampons or undergoing a pelvic exam e.g. papsmear
  • Burning or stinging with tightness during sex
  • Avoidance of sex due to pain and/or failure
  • Difficult or impossible penetration

Causes of vaginimus

There are several reasons why someone may experience vaginismus. These include physical and psychological factors such as:

  • childbirth
  • medical conditions like UTIs, yeast infections (thrush), chronic pain syndromes
  • rape, sexual abuse or assault in the past
  • a painful examination in the past
  • unpleasant sexual intercourse
  • fear of getting pregnant
  • fear the vagina may be too small for any penetration
  • for many women there may be no obvious cause

Physiotherapy is recommended as first-line treatment for vaginismus with high success rates. If you have any specific concerns, we would recommend you contact our physiotherapist Janette, for further information. Janette is a physiotherapist who has completed specialised training in this area. She can confirm the diagnosis, provide you with treatment and advice to help, or refer you to the appropriate provider if required.


Contact Janette for more information at or call reception to make an appointment on 9518 0722

Janette O’Toole Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist

Better Health Practice Stanmore